London Southend Airport

June 18th, 2011 No comments

The amazing power an airline like easyJet has was illustrated this week with the news that they are going to fly three A319′s out of Southend airport, meaning over 70 flights a week will be leaving to sunny destinations including Barcelona, Faro and Ibiza.  Read more about it here. This in turn will create 150 jobs and mean other operators may also start to look at the airport seriously as London’s 6th airport.

The news stories generated out of this announcement have certainly put the airport on the map, or rather more accurately back on the map as the airport was in fact London’s third busiest airport in terms of passenger volume until well into the 1970s.  Southend Airport is around 50 minutes on the train to Liverpool Street and passengers will enjoy speedy access through a new terminal building and a flight time that is estimated to be around 15 minutes shorter than via other London airports thanks to the lack of air congestion in the immediate vicinity.

You can be assured that easyJet will have struck a good deal with the airport operator over landing fees.  And in case Southend’s operators get greedy in a few years time and try to increase these fees they should remember how Ryanair pulled out of manchester recently over an argument about just this very issue.

The news also highlights once again the tremendous commercial tour-de-force easyJet and Ryanair have now become.  Where they go passengers follow.  And because of this they have the power to totally transform the fortunes of an area literally overnight, creating jobs and tourism in their wake all with a speed that a regional development agency could only dream of.

So what does it all mean? Will we see other non primary airports around the world grow in prominence as the entrepreneurial operators of these airports attempt to woo carriers away from their larger more expensive incumbent airports? Is this move good or bad for customers? Certainly with the established airports facing very vocal opposition to expansion plans some argue this sort of move is the only card airlines operators have left to play if they want to increase capacity, lower costs and make more (or even some!) profit for their shareholders.

Southend should tread carefully though.  The budget airlines like their flirtations but don’t always want a long term relationship.  Southend may currently be the object of easyJet’s desire but sometimes these sort of relationships just don’t work out.  Or maybe the public just won’t take to it as a place to start their holiday.  Sometimes what should work just doesn’t. Cheryl Cole in X Factor US anyone?  In certain parts of middle england Ryanair is still blamed for ending many a retirement holiday home dream when they pulled a load of French routes a few years ago in a Cowell esque overnight turnaround.

Budget airlines have wondering eyes and get plenty of offers, so I’d say enjoy the flirtation whilst it lasts Southend, but watch that easyJet like a hawk.

Categories: Aviation Tags:

New NS&I Savings Certificates Are Out

May 14th, 2011 No comments

Just a very quick post to say if you haven’t seen these, and you have any form of savings at all, you should check out these index linked savings certificates from NS&I.

They are government backed so your money is safe, and if you do need access to funds in an emergency you can cash in at any time, although if you do so in the first year you’ll forfeit any interest.  Invest £100 – £15,000.

The certificates are linked to the Retail Price Index (RPI) paying 0.5 above the annual figure meaning that they are inflation busting. The gains are also tax free.  There are lots and lots of stories out there on the web explaining how exactly they work.  But they are expected to sell out fast!


Categories: Personal Finance Tags:


May 14th, 2011 No comments

I’ve been fortunate enough go to the USA 3 times since January.  And each time I go I love it more and more.  It may not be fashionable to like America but here are ten reasons why I personally think it’s great!

  • It’s a self made country full of self made people: it has an entrepreneurial spirit. Cab drivers talk about night school and where they want to go, there is a real belief that anyone get can anywhere in America. It has a work ethic. In certain parts they give tax breaks to companies that encourage business and create jobs. The UK could learn lots here.
  • As a country they have done some amazing things from an engineering point of view like putting man into space, or continuing to lead in aviation
  • It’s large with a huge mixture of climates and terrain.
  • People talk to you! Unlike the UK where people keep themselves to themselves American’s are friendly!
  • New York.  The best city in the world.
  • The Internet was invented by the USA and they lead in tech (Apple, Google, Facebook etc etc)
  • They are the kings of entertainment. Their film industry is amazing. Great TV Shows. And Broadway is amazing. Music too. Computer games too. You name it…
  • As a rule it’s a diverse, tolerant and safe place to live.
  • They speak english!
  • English exiles in the USA (especially in NYC) are so much more interesting than english people living in England!

Of course, before all American bashers wade in, it’s not a perfect country by all means, but I like it and the above is why!

Categories: Travel Tags:

Broadway Round Up

May 14th, 2011 No comments

I’ve seen lots of stuff on Broadway lately.  Here are my views of what’s hot and what’s not.

I saw this in January 2011. The show is famously still in the middle of a massively long preview period, and Julie Taymor has since been fired, so bear in mind things may have changed but the first half was stunning – simply one of the most amazing pieces of staging I’ve seen. Ever.  Really nice production design, with some very clever treatment of height and perspective, good lighting and an excellent (and large) cast.  The aerial work was breathtaking. And the plot kind of made sense. Reeve Carney is easy enough on the eye and has a pleasant singing voice.  The songs, well… I’ve never been a U2 fan but they are ok.    Part 2 though was bonkers.  Made no sense at all.  But assuming they work that out (the show has re-opened this week but still in preview) I think the show will be great overall.  Go see it – the money they have spent (this is the most expensive musical ever) shows on stage.

Book of Mormon
Wow. Like everyone else I don’t really have anything bad to say about this show.  The guys who created South Park have a hit on their hands of monster proportions. Already rumoured to be planning a West End transfer the show is one of those rare hyped shows that didn’t disappoint at all. A genuinely funny catchy score is matched by brilliant cast performances across the board.  It’s also the hottest show in town – tickets are like gold dust so the atmosphere front of house is electric.  I found myself sitting next to Jodie Foster in the production seats!  The cast recording is out next week but I’d actually recommend you don’t listen to the score before you go as it will spoil some of the gags.

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
This is a revival of an old musical that is guaranteed to be a hit because it stars Daniel Radcliffe.  Beautifully staged with a set that fuses the aesthetic of Mad Men with The Jetsons the show also features terrific choreography. I’d describe the show as a slow burner in terms of audience engagement.  The first few songs don’t really connect but by the end of the first half I was really enjoying it, but it does takes a while.   A good third of the audience were simply there for Daniel it would appear, and whilst he has certainly put in the work learning some very athletic and complex dance routines I couldn’t help feeling that he lacks the natural carisma the person in this role should have.   The score is more catchy than you think it is (still humming some of it), and anyone who has worked in an office or tried to climb some form of corporate ladder can’t fail to find some of the scenarios amusing and wry, if not laugh out loud funny.

Priscilla Queen of the Dessert
Those of you who know me in real life will know that I love this show and will find any vague excuse to see the London production time and time again.  I think it’s a show that looks tacky, glib and moronic from the outside, but is actually a show with the most heart of any I’ve seen. It’s beautifully written and directed with a nuance and story that connects with people from all different walks of life. It’s truly universal and how they have worked the songs into the story is genius. It has audiences on it’s feet night after night after night.

Some changes have been made for Broadway.  Tick is now firmly the star of the show (America like their leading men to be clearly defined) and Adam worships Madonna, not Kylie.  Lots of other changes had been made too and having read about them in advance and also seen some unwelcome changes made to the London version I was ready to hate the show.  But I have to hand it to Simon Phillips and the rest of the creative team – they have pulled it off, and they actually have a faster, more focused and ultimately better production in the Broadway show. And that’s saying something considering how much I love the London production.

Key to the success of the show is the magnificent Tony Sheldon. It was a pleasure to see him perform the role of Bernadette again in NYC over a year since leaving the London production.  It’s a role he so convincingly owns and has perfected it’s just a joy to watch.   I found myself returning to the Palace solo the next day just to watch his performance again.   For Tony fans the best interview I’ve seen with him can be found here.

Mary Poppins
I’d wanted  to see this show for ages, having missed it during it’s residency in London a few years back, but have to say in all honesty I was really disappointed. So-so songs and a pretty boring storyline led me to almost nod off at one point.  The families in the house seemed to be enjoying it, and maybe the fact I’ve never actually seen the film put me at a disadvantage but I really struggle to find anything about this show that stands out.

It’s unfortunate this show is right across the street from Spiderman, as Spiderman’s aerial work totally shits all over the big end of Act 2 effect (Mary Flying over the audience).


Categories: Theatre Tags:

On being eclectic

August 6th, 2010 1 comment

So my dear blog readers you may have noticed this blog is a bit of a mess thematically. It doesn’t really have a central theme as such, other than me and my rather peculiar interests and obsessions.

I originally envisaged it would be a hive of activity, updated several times a day with multiple sections and editorial strands. Kind of a poor man’s Sunday Times.  The Observer, if you like.

I wanted to write about the digital world AND aviation.  With a section on running my own business, personal fitness, london and theatre.  Augmented by musings on DNS and hosting, film, politics and travel. All the essential topics for a daily “must read” site of global significance I’m sure you’ll agree.

But can a blog have a wide a focus as this? Is it wise in these days of niche community building and focused content strategies? Will anybody want to read it?  Is someone interested in DNS also interested in aviation safety? How can I maintain several blogs if I can’t even maintain one?

These thoughts dance through my head as I  head off to bed.

Categories: Misc Tags:

On yer bike

July 26th, 2010 No comments

In the spirit of “little and often” a quick update to say that today I rode one of the new short hire bikes springing up all around London, including right outside our office. And it was ace.  I really think this is a good idea.  It’s like Streetcar for bikes.

Here is a picture of me on my bike.

It’s going to be interesting to see how this scheme changes the fabric of London.

Categories: London Tags:

Breakfast is for wimps

July 20th, 2010 1 comment

The past few weeks I’ve been starting my day with the most amazing power smoothies. For the recipe thanks must go to my personal trainer Rich. But I feel compelled to share: people of the Internet this is what you should be having each morning to get things off to the perfect start.

First up, purchase one of these little puppies from Argos.

Then this is what you put in it:
- 250g of Oats
- Banana
- Handfull of Blueberries
- Handful of Brazil Nuts
- Handful of Hazelnuts
- Handful of Pumpkin Seeds
- Spoon of smooth Peanut Butter
- One scoop of Protein Powder
- Tiny bit of Strawberry flavouring
- Ice
- Water

Then you hit the smoothie button and the magic happens. Delicious and nutritious!

Categories: Health, Fitness and Sport Tags:

All a load of hot air?

April 19th, 2010 No comments

So with all this coverage about Volcano Ash, and the grounding of planes you might think it’s all a bit of an overreaction - here is why it isn’t!

Categories: Aviation Tags:

Theatre Review: Eigengrau @ The Bush Theatre

April 5th, 2010 No comments

“Eigengrau” (a noun, meaning intrinsic light – the colour seen by the eye in perfect darkness), written by Penelope Skinner and directed by Polly Findlay is a zippy fast paced gem of a play that follows two sets of 20-something flat mates and their interactions with each over the course of a couple of months.

Mark is doing well earning £80k a year in marketing. His flatmate and old Uni friend Tim isn’t adjusting quite so well to the bright lights and is unemployed and locked in an inward spiral of depression following the death of his nan. Leaving the flat or getting dressed would be a noteworthy achievement in Tim’s current world.

Across town Cassie is trying to use her fervent interest in women’s rights to nurture a career in political speech writing.  But, more pressingly, she needs to pay the rent. And her newly [via Gumtree] acquired flatmate Rose seems to have lots of excuses, lots of fanciful notions, but very little money.

Mark meets Rose in a pub and Rose brings Mark back. The play kicks off with the awkward conversation between Mark and Cassie the morning after.

The situations, which are presented with sparkling humour laced dialogue clearly resonate well with the mainly 20 something audience and the the play’s strength lies in using familiar experiences (like the awkward morning conversations with flat mate’s shags) as jump off points for exploring deeper themes, which in turn are also oddly familiar albeit somewhat exaggerated.  Maybe it’s just me, but I can see elements of all the characters in people I know in real life.

Ultimately, I see the play as being about loneliness.   Each of the characters is lonely  (some in a more obvious way than others) and is reacting to the paradoxical loneliness of city life in their own way.  In a city you may live on top of people in a shoebox flat, cram into the tube with the masses, share your bed with that nights conquest but still be emotionally cold and lonely with little emotional intimacy.  The play draws attention to that.  I also think it’s a play about Passion – or rather the search for it.  Each of the characters is looking for passion in their lives, be it personal or professional but is missing the mark when trying to find it.   People coming to a city to look for that certain “something” isn’t exactly new, but it’s nicely evoked here.

Great performances from the cast:  Geoffrey Streatfield could easily pass for a young Hugh Grant in terms of mannerisms and Alison O’Donnell particularly impressed. Given the limitations of the venue the staging and lighting were also very good.  I think the decision to keep the play moving and not have an interval was also a good one.

Geoffrey Streatfeild

A few other reviews have noted that the play doesn’t draw all it’s themes together into a bite size conclusion.  But I think that’s missing the point.  Whilst the play does offer a conclusion of sorts for characters we’ve been watching for the past 90 minutes, by that point I think it’s got the audience thinking about their own situation and their own points of reference so much that the actual characters in the play become of less interest than the thoughts the play has opened up.

The Bush is a small (intimate!) venue and stage, and the setup for this play has the audience facing each other on opposite sides of the tiny performance area. This serves to enhance the comic moments (“oh yes we can all relate to this!” people seem to say as they chortle)  yet make the uncomfortable moments where you are witnessing a characters despair all the more uncomfortable as you catch the glance of the person opposite and share a brief moment of collectively not knowing where to look.

This was my second trip to the Bush Theatre having previously seen the excellent “2nd May 1997″ there a few months ago. If these two plays are indicative of the overall general quality of output from this venue then it seems my hops over to west London are going to become more frequent.

My verdict: 4 stars out of 5
Performance attended: Friday 2nd April @ 7.30pm

Categories: Theatre Tags:

But what does it all mean?

March 30th, 2010 1 comment

When I was a lad you you used to check into hotels. And then only on special occasions. But today dear blog reader you can check into offices and houses, streets, cabs, planes and even, in the case of minor web celebrities, people.

What am I talking about? I’m talking about FourSquare. I’m talking Gowalla. Or maybe I’m alluding to Brightkite.  Oh but then sometimes when I’m in a particular mood I do like to give Whrrl an…. erm whirl.

And who can of missed all the endless tweets and status updates (including my very own) that proudly announce that so and so is at such and such.

What on earth does it all mean?  And…. what’s the point?

Using these location based services is oddly addictive. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been using FourSquare and every check in you perform gives you points, and sometimes badges.  These points and badges aren’t actually worth anything except status on the service, but it’s still fun to get them. Check into a location more times than anyone else and you become Mayor of that place. Which is kind of cool.

When I was at SXSW, everyone seemed to be using the service, and with that level of local usage it was interesting to see where people I knew were and the trending local locations.  I noticed that in the US, when you checked into some locations (eg a coffee shop) they would have an offer setup for FourSquare users – I’ve not seen this in the UK yet, but I’d be more inclined to check into  a place (particularly somewhere like a Cinema or a Bar) if I thought I might get a real time offer from that place.

Social integration is quite clunky at the moment – I can see who else has recently checked into a place, but if I wanted to contact that person it would be down to using the contact details they have provided on their FourSquare profile: there is no native chat or poke or anything like that included in the service.

I’m quite surprised how willing people are to share their location info. Sure, you have to actively publish a location (so you won’t accidentally publish that job interview you sneaked into during lunch at the rival agency) but sharing your location does have consequences.    Will your clients or employer mind you seem to spend an awful lot of time in the pub during the day?  Do you really want to publicise when you are in and out of your house (we’ve all seen and do you really want everyone in the world to know your preferred kebab shop at 3am on a Sunday morning?  Things to muse on readers.

I’ve also been playing with Google Latitude on my Nexus One.  This takes the above to a whole new level and is frankly quite scary.  Add a friend to Google Latitude and if they also have a similarly enabled GPS device you can see their real time location overlaid on Google Maps.  Wow.  Great… right?   Hmm I’m not so sure.  Great until those little white lies (“Sure, I’m 2 minutes away” ) start to be verifiable via Latitude.  Great until one of your friends decides to do something clever with the API and plot how late you are into work most days and then tweet it.   As soon as people (ie marketers) work out how to contact you based on your passive location (ie locations you’ve not physically checked into, but have been noted at) the floodgates start to open.  Visit a hospital often, will you get “Hey it looks like you are dying! Check out our funeral plans for only $99″ type emails?  I guess time will tell.

I’m going to keep playing with these services for the next few weeks then make a decision as to whether to continue .  Part of me likes having an audit trail of my movements (Go to sleep? No! Let’s review my last year by movement!) but part of me loves and cherishes anonymity.

And I predict anonymity is going to be the next big thing. Really.  More on this soon.

Categories: Digital Tags:
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